GORDON BOK:  In Concert

© (p) 2006 Timberhead Music

PO Box 840

Camden ME 04843

www.gordonbok.com

 

For years I felt that knowing a concert was being recorded would remove the immediacy and spontaneity from it, along with that feeling of conversation that I usually feel with audiences.

 

My friends convinced me that we always have too much fun in a concert-hall for that to happen, and that I ought to let more people in on the fun, so in May and June of 2006 I recorded some concerts I was doing in Maine.  This album is a sampling of them.

 

Recorded at the Strand Theatre, Rockland, Maine; The Chocolate Church, Bath, Maine; Center Theatre, Dover-Foxcroft, Maine; and Johnson Hall, Gardiner, Maine.

 

A special thanks to our loyal audiences for singing so beautifully and for providing the authentic cough-tracks.

 

Recorded, engineered and mastered by Bruce Boege, Limin Music, Northport, Maine.

With additional recording by Rick Crampton and Bradley Truman

Mixed by Bruce Boege, Gordon Bok, and Anne Dodson

Produced by Gordon Bok and Anne Dodson

Front cover photography by Mike Power

Inside photography by Janet Buck-Marusov

 

Programming by Carol Rohl

Graphic Design by Ken Gross

 

Where possible, I print the oldest sources I have of these songs, no matter how much they differ from the versions that came to me.

 

The January Men and Then Some are:

Gordon Bok, Will Brown, Sky Hall, Bill Huntington, Jamie Huntsberger, Cindy Kallet, Bob Richardson, Carol Rohl, and Peter Yantz

 

Queer Bungo Rye

Traditional

 

A song I've known forever.  I can't remember where I learned it, but I associate this version with Newfoundland.  I've heard it sung "Bung-yer-eye," too.

 

Gordon – 12 string

 

Now Jack was a sailor and he walked up to town

And she was a damsel, she skipped up and down

And she says to Jack as she passed him by

"Would you care for to purchase some Old Bungo Rye?"

(Ruddy rye, fol de diddle dye, ruddy rye, ruddy rye)

 

Says Jack to himself, "Now what can this be

But the finest of whiskies from far Germany

Snuggled up in a basket and sold on the sly

And the name that it goes by is "Old Bungo Rye"

 

Jack gave her a pound, for he thought nothing strange

"Hold the basket, young man, while I run for your change"

Jack peeked in the basket and a child he did spy

"I'll be damned, (he did cry) this is Queer Bungo Rye"

 

Well, to get the child christened was Jack's next intent

And to get the child christened, to the parson he went

Says the parson to Jack, "What will he go by?"

"I'll be damned, (did he cry) call him Queer Bungo Rye!"

 

Says the parson to Jack, "That's a very queer name"

"I'll be damned (did he cry) and it's a queer way he came

Snuggled up in a basket and sold on the sly

And the name that he'll go by is Queer Bungo Rye!"

 

So come all you young sailors who walk up to town

Beware of those damsels who skip up and down

Take a peek in their baskets as ye pass them by

Or else they may pawn on you Queer Bungo Rye!

 

 

 

Last Shift at the Crowns

© 1999 M.J. O'Connor

 

Author Mike O'Connor, OBE, says "'The Crowns' was a famous tin mine on the Cornish coast. Its main shaft was started in 1858.  Unlike most shafts it sloped at an angle of about 45° leading to a labyrinth of about 60 miles of tunnels under the Atlantic.  Men were carried up and down the shaft in a gig, a purpose-built wheeled box, which was also used to raise ore.

 

"The incident I describe is true.  When the last shift came up, in 1914, all the families gathered at the pit head.  Long before the wagon carrying the men came into sight their voices could be heard singing in harmony, the sound echoing up to the surface from beneath the ocean."

 

Gordon – Spanish guitar

 

When the Crowns closed

And the last shift returned from the shaft beneath the sea

We heard them first, for every man was singing

As each in turn rose to the sunset glow

On harmonies born from the gates of Hell

That even drowned the breakers on the granite far below

 

I asked the last man

What he remembered from his years beneath the ground

He said, at the end of shift when all was quiet

The drill was stopped, the pumps were far away

Before going to the shaft with all its singing

In silence he would listen and in silence he would pray

 

What did you hear?

"Seas braking over, close above the mine"

He'd catch the water from the tunnel roof

He'd taste for salt, then silently he'd pray

For all who worked 'neath ocean and 'neath granite

He said the sound of waves above would haunt him all his days

 

What of today?

Crown's engine-house is a silent, empty shell

The shaft is gone and all who sang so fine

I never felt the granite tremble 'neath the swell

But I heard the last shift rising to the sunlight

And I still remember singing out of the Gates of Hell

 

 

 

Patrick Spencer

(Sir Patrick Spens, Child No. 58)

© 1975 Bob Coltman

 

I sang with Ed Trickett professionally for many years, and still do for fun.  I think I learned this song from him in the 1970s or one of those decades.  His friend Bob Coltman has written many hundreds of songs including the great folk-favorite, Lonesome Robin.

 

Through friends in various services, I've come to know what it's like to be sent to sea and kept out there by people who never had to be out there.

 

Gordon – 12-string guitar

 

Oh, don't the moon look pretty, she sails like a ship in the sky

Darling, you don't know nothing about sailing, she's got a cast in the eye

When the moon weeps silvery tears, you can look for a terrible storm

God pity the sailor that's out tomorrow, I'm glad I can bide at home

 

If you be Patrick Spencer, and man, you better had be

Here's a letter from the King, he commands you to go to sea

How little he thinks of the dangers, among his wine and his song

His daughter in far Norroway, she's sick and she wants to come home

 

He might have written me greeting, he might have cast me blame

He might have asked me a hundred favors, God knows I'd never complain

But this running up in the rigging with a hurricane on the wing

It's come to a matter of like and death to have to pleasure the King

 

Standing out to sea, oh Lord, it commenced to rain

The sea like the tops of mountains, and the wind like a thing in pain

Patrick Spencer took his glass, and he put it in Johnny's hand

Run up, Johnny, as high as you can, and see if you see any land

 

No land, Patrick Spencer, no never a sight of shore

The give it over, boys, he cried, we'll never see home any more

Never mind your knuckle shoes, for you'll wet more than your feet

And as for the letter from the King, it's a damn small winding-sheet

 

Christinie be a long, long while a-waiting for me to come home

And the cold, cold sea be a long, long time a-walking over my bones

That man that told the King about me, I wish I had him here

And the one last wish I would like to have granted is to carry him under with me

 

 

Plastic Container of Plonk

Words © Bill Scott

Music © Roger Illott

 

When Bill wrote this, he sent it to his friend Roger Illott to put a tune to it.  I learned it from Roger's singing.  It is printed in Bill's songbook Hey Rain!  which Timberhead Music published in the U.S.

 

Some Aussie words worth knowing:

Stubbies – short cans of beer

Yabbies – crayfish

Plonk – cheap red wine ("Rough Red")

Tucker – food

Burleying – roughing-up (giving them a hard time)

 

Gordon – Spanish guitar

 

I remember the days when we used to go fishing

After the whiting around Skirmish Point

With a carton of stubbies, a bucket of yabbies

And worms that we dug from all over the joint

And a plastic container of plonk

 

Remember the morning old Charlie got blotto

And fell all around in a tangle of lines

He was singing his head off and whirling his sinker

But as he was having a wonderful time

He spilled me container of plonk

 

How he splashed it all round and some went into the bucket

And the yabbies all went on a beautiful spree

They drank me rough red and got full as old Charlie

And argued and sang and left nothing for me

Of me plastic container of plonk

 

We were baiting with yabbies all well marinated

And waving their claws as they went on their way

And the whiting got word of this marvelous tucker

And came in their thousands from all round the Bay

To indulge in some yabbies and plonk

 

When our creels were all full then we started off homeward

With a teetotal nephew to manage the car

Then the whiting all came to surface to thank us

For the taste thrill that came from me old plastic jar

Me plastic container of plonk

 

So don't talk to me about burleying whiting

Just take a tip from an old fisherman

Bring a little rough red and before you start fishing

Just tip a good slosh in the bait-holding can

From your plastic container of plonk

 

 

Where the Cane Fires Burn

Words and Music ©  1999 Bill Scott

 

A prime reason for finally extending a tour to Australia was to meet Mavis and Bill Scott, with whom I had corresponded and shared music for so many years.

 

He lived his last years in Warwick, but when he died in 2005, the family took his ashes North and scattered them by the Johnstone River near Mt. Tully, the area that he loved so well.  I learned the song from Penny Davies and Roger Illott, though it's in Bill's songbook.

 

Gordon – 12-String guitar

 

I've wandered East, I've wandered West

From the Hamersley Range to the Snowy Crest

From the Lachlan Plains to the Broken Hill

But my heart's at the Johnstone River still

Now the time has come when I must return

Where the vine scrub grows and the canefres burn

Where the vine scrub grows and the canefires burn

 

By the Yarra now the cold rain falls

And the wind is bleak from the Bass Strait squalls

I stand and wonder in the chill

Has the season started at Mulgrave Hill?

For Autumn comes and I must return

Where the harvesters chug and the trashfires burn

Where the harvesters chug and the trashfires burn

 

The smog is thick and stings the eye

Where the Harbour Bridge fills half the sky

And the sirens wail through Sydney town

But I dream of Tully when the sun goes down

Where the rainforest covers the hills with green

The cane grows tall and the air is clean

The cane grows tall and the air is clean

 

I've been wandering South and West

On land and sea, but the North is best

Now Autumn comes with its hint of snows

And I must follow where the egret goes

To watch the evening's first faint star

From Flying Fish Point or Yarrabah

From Flying Fish Point or Yarrabah

 

 

 

Canso Strait

Traditional

 

A Gloucester fishing schooner returning from the Northumberland Strait stopped in at Canso (between Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island) for supplies for the long beat back to the Westward.  The captain went ashore and got into the booze and the rest of it is in the song.  The description of heading out at dark, getting into a knock down* and the luck and skill involved in getting her out of trouble is a wonderful piece of reportage and poetry.

 

Gordon – 12-String guitar

 

In Canso Strait our vessel lay

She'd just returned from out the Bay

A schooner built both stout and strong

And to Gloucester she did belong

 

We were homeward bound and ready for sea

When our drunken captain got on a spree

He come on board and to us did day

Get your anchors, boy, and fill away

 

We got our anchors at his command

And with all sail set we left the land

We left old Sand Point on our lee

And header her out against a steep head-sea

 

The night come on, the dark clouds lower

The wind did howl and the waves did roar

An angry squall† from the angry sky

It knocked her down about half-mast high

 

Her jib-sheets parted, which eased her some

She come head-to-wind and she rose again

We got our jibs in and new sheet bent

And straightaway aft to our captain went

 

We kindly asked him to shorten sail

Or we'd be lost in the heavy gale

He cursed and swore that if the wind would blow

He'd show us how his old boat could go

 

Then up spoke one of our gallant men

"There's twelve of us right here at hand

We'll reef her down and to sea we'll go

And if you refuse you'll be tied below"

 

The waves did roar, the wind did rave

We hardly thought our lives we'd save

But we reefed her down to her own success

She's like a bird swinging for her nest

 

She's headed up off the Cape Shore now

She knocks the white foam off her bow

Oh never again will I ever sail

With a drunken captain and a heavy gale

 

 

*where the wind slaps the vessel flat on her side in the water – some vessels don't come back from that

†I sang 'wave'

The Angelus

Poem: © Elizabeth Shane

Music © 2003 Gordon Bok, BMI

 

Elizabeth Shane (1877-1951) was a poet from Donegal who knew her land and her waters well.  This poem has the feel of a lot of the country-folk I've met in my visits to Ireland.  "Turf" is peat, dug up in the bogs and dried in stacks, for fuel.

 

Gordon – Spanish guitar

 

Mary and Manus are working the turf together

Old they are, the two of them, old and grey

Over the bog the sea-wind sings in the heather

Night clouds lie on the hilltops, far away

 

They will have comfort now when the nights are colder

They will have turf, aye, plenty of turf to spare

Light she steps with the heavy creel on her shoulder

Load on load for the stack that is building there

 

Now there is a deeper note than the sea-wind's singing

Soft it comes, on the breath of the dying day

Down in the hollow the bell from the chapel is ringing

And Mary and Manus stand for a minute and pray

 

Soft and low on the air each long note lingers

Quietly bending their old, grey heads they stand

Making the holy sign with work-worn fingers

Wrapped in the sudden peace that has blessed the land

 

Is it the light of heaven on the wide sea breaking

Spreading its glory out like a golden rain

And with the light of the world in their eyes a-waking

Mary and Manus are working the turf again

 

 

Inheritance

© 1990 J.B. Goodenough

 

From her book, Milking in November.  Jusy was a poet who captured the hard, clear language of the New England landscape with a "fierce economy." She was a good musician too, and wife, mother and friend.

 

 

No rum-money

Slave-money

Whale-money

My grandfathers

Were landlubbers all

 

They left me

A tilted house

A broken-backed barn

And six fields

Hung on the hill

 

Fifty years

I thought I was poor

But I learned this:

Good dirt

Is hard to come by

 

 

 

Hark Now

© 2004 Gordon Bok

 

A rowing song

 

The January Men and Then Some

 

You can bail her all night, you can haul her all day

HARK NOW, HEED ME NOW

And damned if she'll give you a decent week's pay

OH HEED AND HARKEN TO ME

 

If Ronnie was here on the end of an oar

I'd show the old bat what a muckle* was for

 

I've run round old England, I've put into France

Wherever I've landed I got a fair chance

 

A China-man come to my old woman's door

He gave her a hake and it danced on the floor

 

O who will pull with ye when I am gone?

If ye pull like ye talk we could lift-her-along†

 

And who will sing with ye when I am gone?

If ye sing like ye pull we'll be here all night long!

 

 

 

*fish club

†get the job done quickly

 

 

 

Let The Lower Lights Be Burning

Phillip Bliss 1871

 

I learned this from Kendall Morse in the 1960s – it was popular along this coast a generation before mine.  We've heard three different stories of how this song came to be, all involving a ship disaster on the Great Lakes.  Phillip Bliss was a well-known evangelist who heard one of these stories and wrote the song.

 

The January Men and Then Some

 

Brightly beams out father's mercy

From the Lighthouse evermore

But to us he gives the keeping

Of the lights along the shore

 

            Let the lower lights be burning

            Send their gleam across the wave   

            Some poor fainting, struggling seaman

            You man rescue, you may save

 

Dark the night of sin has settled

Loud the angry billows roar

Eager eyes are watching, longing

For the lights along the shore

 

Trim your feeble lamp, my brother

Some poor sailor, tempest-tossed

Trying now to reach the harbor

In the darkness may be lost

 

 

 

Wrecker's Prayer

Poem: © Thedore Goodridge Roberts

Music: © 1973 Dan Aguiar

 

Stories of people enhancing their living by wreck-picking, or even assisting the wrecks to happen, are rampant round the coasts of many countries.  In this poem, it is coastal Newfoundlanders merely praying for a little divine assistance.  It comes from The Leather Bottle, a 1937 novel by Theodore Goodridge Roberts.  Dan Aguiar is an old musical friend of mine now living in Red Hook, New York. 

 

The January Men and Then Some

 

 

Give us a wreck – or two, Good Lord

For winter in Topsail Tickle* is hard

With grey frost creepin' like a Mortal Sin

And perishin' lack of bread in the bin

 

A grand, rich wreck, we do humbly pray

Busted abroad at the break-of-day

And hove clear in 'cross Topsail Reef

With vittles and hear to beguile our grief

 

One grand wreck, or maybe two

With gear and vittles to see us through

Til the spring starts up like the leap-of-day

And the fish strike back into Topsail Bay

 

Lord of reefs and tides and sky

Heed ye our need and hark to our cry:

Bread by the bag and beef by the cask

Ease for sore bellies is all we ask

 

One rich wreck, for Thy hand is strong

A barque or a brig from up-along†

Bemused by the twisty tides, oh Lord

For winter in Topsail Tickle is hard

 

Loud and long will we sing thy praise

Merciful Father, O Ancient of Days

Master of fog and tide and reef

Heave us a wreck to beguile our grief

Amen

 

 

* a tickle is a small strait, or passage

† To the Westward – Nova Scotia or the U.S.

 

 

Collage: "Pretty"

Words & Music © 2005 Gordon Bok

 

Through many years on the water, mostly along this coast and a few others, I've heard a lot of things, and have recently been jotting them down as I remember them.  This is some parts of conversations strung together and sung.  I've interspersed it with one side of a conversation I heard on marine radio a few years ago – that's the spoken part.  Memory is a drifty thing, as my brother and I enjoyed proving, so the words may be more mine than theirs, but the stories and the sentiments are true as the day they happened.

 

Gordon – Spanish Guitar

 

Sung:

Lord, lord, lord, ain't it pretty today?

With the sky all quilted over like a mattress, soft and gray

See every twig and pebble on the islands up the bay

And the wind away….

Hey, hey, hey; pretty today

 

Spoken:

Hey Pete – you on this one*?

Yeah, it's me.  I been hauling over here under the Blockhouse all morning.

   Look – is that you in there by the Sears bell?

I though that looked like you.  Uh… you've been kind of… stationary in

   there for awhile.  Is everything alright?

Aw, that's a bummer.  I expect you've cleaned your filters, bled her out,

   looked at the aircleaner, like-a-that?

Naw, God, beyond that, I dunno.  Could be injectors, anything I guess.

Anyway, I think I'll go over to TurtleHead: I've got a couple of strings in there and

   if I can get to them, maybe I can catch up to myself a little this week.

   So look, if there's anything I've got that you can use, I'll be in the

   neighborhood.  You will let me know, won't ya?

Well, good enough; I'll leave you to it, then.  I'll be on this channel, anyway.

 

Sung:

Poor old boats

They're nothing but a flaming

    Construct of the Mind

Nothing but a pile of man-made notions

Steel and plastic – spells and potions –

They've got nothing to do with the ocean or the wind

Nothing to do with the water or the wind

 

Damned old things

Yeah they're nothing but a flaming construct of the mind

Nothing but a flaming fabrication

Some damned human machination

And we wonder why they won't keep a-running on their own

Wonder why they don't keep running on their own

 

Oh, but someday the world's going to give a great old shake –

Blow us all to hell-and-gone off here

And I know for one that the ocean wouldn't mind

And you can bet your boots that the wind won't even care…

 

Spoken:

Oh – oh – here we go…

Hey Pete! I know you're busy, but stick your nose up

   outa there and talk to me for a minute, will ya?

Yes – you are in kinda close.  Look, I've got a line made up right here –

   why don't I slide in by your stern and we twitch you

   right outa there?

Yeah, that looks good to me.  I'll just poke along easy;

   we got all day.  Hell, we got all night, if we need it.

No, buddy, don't even think about it.  Next week it'll be me

   out there, we both know that.  Look, you talk to Rosie,

   you give her my best, won't ya?

 

Sung:

I don't dream of sailor's heaven, I won't sing of Fiddler's Green

I'm not looking for a fairer world than the one I've always known

I just drive her when she rises and slack her when she falls

And hope I never get to reap all the foolishness I've sown

 

No, I don't dream of sailor's heaven, I don't sing of Fiddler's Green

I'm not looking for a kinder world than the one I've always seen

I just ease her when she pitches and catch her when she rolls

And get her in before the devil knows we're out here

 

Lord, lord, lord…. pretty today

 

 

* a particular marine radio channel (not 16)

 

 

Oystershell Road

Words & Music © 2003 Mary Garvey

 

This is about oyster "farming" in the tidal estuaries around Willapa Bay, WA, during WWII, when the women had to replace the men who had gone off either to fight or to be put in interment "camps." Mary, bless her, took the time to listen and to tell their story.

 

Gordon – 12-string guitar

 

You have to dig oysters when the tide is just right

And sometimes it comes in the dead of the night

The orders came down to extinguish all light

To our homes on the Oystershell Road

 

Now the glow of a lantern could bring an attack

And sometimes we'd sleep in the old oyster shack

And let ourselves down with a rake and a sack

Near our homes on the Oystershell Road

 

Some came from Germany, some from Japan

They lived for the oyster each woman and man

We said, God be with you, return when you can

To your homes on the Oystershell Road

 

For when push comes to shove your mettle shines through

And our hands and our feet somehow knew what to do

With the men gone away we made such a fine crew

From our homes on the Oystershell Road

 

In the sea was the sub, in the air was the plane

And the men had it worse so we couldn't complain

And the neighbors would honk us all home in the rain

To our homes on the Oystershell Road

 

We helped win the war in the mud and the muck

And prayed that our feet would never get stick

When the tide rushes in, you can run out of luck

By your homes on the Oystershell Road

 

Oh, how I remember the dark and the cold

I had hoped that our story would someday be told

But it probably won't 'cause we're getting so old

In our homes on the Oystershell Road.

 

 

Culebra

© 1984 Gordon Bok, BMI

 

A remembrance of a day delivering a sad old boat from St. Thomas, VI to Puerto Rico, wherein we strove to avoid damaging the island of Culebra.

 

Gordon – Spanish guitar

 

 

 

Do Something (Even if it's Wrong)

Words and Music © Capt. Dave Kennedy

 

Dave was a phenomenon, a force of nature.  Having "come up through the hawsepipe" on a hundred ships, he had an unlimited license and world pilotage when I met him.  A great lover of many kinds of music, he used to write sentimental country songs.  This was straight out of his experience running a small, independent company of ship-pilots in New York Harbor.  I made a few ship-movements with him, both in Long Island Sound and the Port of St. Croix, and can attest that he was an astonishingly canny ship-handler – though not immune to the odd mistake.  The "Sam" in this song was Sam Sorenson, one of his partners.  I will always thank Steve Sellors for keeping this song alive until we learned it. 

 

Gordon – 12 string-guitar

 

I've got a partner by the name of Sam

That squarehead pilot's quite a man

Here's what he says when he gets in a jam

"Do something even if it's wrong"

 

            Do something even it it's wrong

            This'll make sense before too long

            What am I gonna do with this crazy song

            Do something even if it's wrong

 

The first thing Sam tries, it never work

The second thing only makes it worse

But the third, the fourth, the fifth, the sixth – something works

Do something even if it's wrong

 

The next time that you're up a tree

You just don't know what your future might be

Take a tip from Same and me

And do something, even if it's wrong

 

 

 

Hie Awa

Traditional

 

I have sung this for about 40 years; can't remember where I learned t.  The Boarding Party tracked it back through Robin Roberts who recorded it as "Love is Kind."  It's also knows "Ee Awa," "Haul Awa" or possibly "I a bha," which Norman Kennedy says means "she that's gone" in Gaelic.  Lucy Simpson gave me the "blessing" verse,  which she made.  I often sing this for my wife, Carol, when I'm touring alone.

 

Gordon – 12 string-guitar

 

O love is kind to the least of man

            HIE AWA HIE AWA

Though he be but a drunken tar

            HIE AWA HIE AWA

 

Far from land and the sight of man

O who will love the sailorman?

 

            And awa and awa

            HIE AWA, HIE AWA

            And awa and awa

            HIE AWA, HIE AWA

 

Take me to that star-eyed maid

O I was happy with her laid

 

In the comfort of her bed

There let me lie until I'm dead

 

Here's my blessing, let it be

May you love as she loved me

 

For live is kind to the least of men

Though he be but a drunken tar